By Michael Giles
“ABS figures show Victoria’s economy is continuing to surge with goods and services exports totalling $11.1 billion in the December quarter alone, with particularly strong results in tourism and education.”
So said the State Government in a media release last Thursday.
It’s great news, especially as Victoria is leading the nation, and the Andrews Government has wasted no time in claiming the credit “for restoring confidence to the Victorian economy after years of neglect”.
At the same time as the State Government was puffing its chest out last week, Tourism Australia was also releasing a glowing report about the state’s performance on tourism, a major factor in the overall result for the state’s economy.
“Victoria’s international visitor and expenditure growth rates are the largest on record with key influences including a low Australian dollar, major international events, significant visa changes and increased airline capacity,” said Tourism Australia.
And while the December 2015 Quarter report notes that “International visitor spend in Melbourne represents 93.2 per cent of total international overnight expenditure in Victoria”, it’s clear many of the visitors are including a day trip to Australia’s second most popular attraction, the Phillip Island Penguin Parade, on their itinerary.
The Island’s extensive major events calendar is also a factor.
But having waited a lifetime to get here, what must the international visitors in particular think as they are being driven on to the Island?
In many cases they have battled their way through ridiculously grid-locked traffic, across a one-lane bridge, past poorly designed and presented residential settlements, towards the tired-looking old penguin parade infrastructure that is supposed to house one of Australia’s premier attractions.
If they stop off in Cowes, they can only wonder why the government and the local council has neglected its potential so badly.
It’s typical though, of all levels of government – they couldn’t run a coin in the slot toilet!
However, on the back of these reports of visitor numbers and the impact on the economy, surely the government can ignore Phillip Island no longer.
The Phillip Island Nature Parks is petitioning the government for $106.3 million to redevelop the penguin parade and the Summerlands Conservation Zone – this money must be committed in the May Budget and it was encouraging to hear the Minister for the Environment Lisa Neville pledge her support for that during a visit to the Island last Thursday.
But that’s just for starters.
The Island needs ongoing finance to upgrade and maintain the whole foreshore and other physical assets, to beautify the Cowes foreshore, for visitor infrastructure and adequate access.
Cowes should be a stunning place to visit, and it’s high time something was done with the Isle of Wight site for goodness sake.
Successive councils and governments have allowed Phillip Island to fall badly into disrepair and despite that it still shines. But visitors and locals alike deserve much better.
In fact, as we have seen from these economic and visitor figures; this state and the whole of Australia stands to benefit.
Most of Victoria’s economic activity is generated by the private sector but where the government has an important hand to play, as it does on Phillip Island, it can’t be seen to be dragging the chain.
Finally, Mr Premier, let’s get serious about Phillip Island!